By Ronald McKinley
Sponto was alive on the night of August 24. The Venice I know and love was there.
The music was provided by the BACKBONERS, with Bill Burnett, Suzy Williams, Ginger Smith and Kahlil Sabbagh in the line-up. Suzy’s husband, Gerry Fialka, was the MC and the curator of the art show.
The party occupied the space that was Henry’s Market, now gone, driven out by homeless haters.
Art lined the walls. My favorite exhibit was a photograph of Ralph by Margaret Molloy, Peter Demian’s wife. If you are old school Venice you know Ralph. Later we chanted one of Ralph’s verbal up-chucks “Get off my milk crate.” We also chanted one of Crazy Mary’s, “Eat my pussy and pay my rent.” Men encouraged getting in touch with their feminine side. I don’t think I ever want to chant that again.
We celebrated the Equinox and the Solstice at Sponto’s, my favorite party memories come from these events. I drummed, and danced, soared my feet touching ground only to go to the restroom. This party was Venice – the Venice that is dying in stages. A sense of community that cannot be marketed. At one point Gerry wanted the room quite. He asked people to talk outside, because he could not be heard over the wall of noise that was all the conversations going on. We chanted “Shut the fuck up.” It only worked for a little while. We had not seen each for a while. I got and gave a lot of hugs that night. I love Venetians, they are me.
Known as Venice West Cafe, Sponto’s was an oasis for poets, artists and musicians, an old Beat Era hang-out, before it was Sponto’s.
I came close to being arrested that night, right before the Sponto Lives party, after the Drum Circle closed down, because a police officer did not like me playing my bell. At first an officer shined a flashlight at me. I was some distance from this officer, and I did not know he was shining it at me. I could barely be heard. I just lifted the stick and dropped it on the bell, about four inches. I have done this many times. I was stopped this time.
I advised him of my First Amendment rights, freedom of speech, and the right to assemble, and that he took an oath to uphold the Constitution.
I said,” This isn’t America anymore.” He said, Yea this isn’t America anymore,” sarcastically. I asked if anyone was videoing this to the crowd; there was a stand-off.
Three other officers came over to intimidate me. He said,” There is no music after sundown.” Boy has Venice changed! Music is illegal after the sun goes down, when the best music is played. I don’t mean the digital format.
He left after we stared each other down. I called him an automaton as he was leaving, just loud enough for him to hear. One officer left with him. Two stayed to watch me. I stayed just a little while longer, and talked to some of my friends, about the magic we had created at the Drum Circle. I left soon after for the Sponto Lives party, where friends missing in action came to the exhibition. It was like old times, almost. The chant that we droned, that best sums up the party is “Sponto gets me high.”